Golf as a pastime has seen renewed interest and an increase in popularity, as an open-air game friendly to social distancing that enabling people to get out of the house, in even the worst of the COVID-19 lockdowns. The number of rounds played in the UK in July 2020, compared to July 2019, were up by as much as 40%.
But, much like any major sport, golf has a representation problem. Of all the registered golfers in in England, 84% are adult men. 3% of the remainder are junior players, leaving a paltry 13% adult female registered golfers in England. This clearly needs to change, but what are the options? What can be done to improve the profile of women in golf, and address the gender disparity in its player base?
Offers and Events to Promote Participation
A crucial way to increase uptake of the sport is to promote offers and events at country clubs. There is a significant barrier to entry in the perceived exclusivity of clubs, which externally appear to require wealth and connections to gain entry. Democratisation of the onboarding process, transparency of clubs and a series of offers and deals for prospective women golf players would be equitable moves, serving to redress the balance of genders and invite more bodies onto golf courses to learn the ropes.
Increased Coverage of Women’s Events
Women’s golfing tournaments receive far less publicity than the male equivalent, despite the frequency of events and height of competition. The Ladies’ Professional Golf Association (LPGA), started in 1950, run the LPGA Tour – a prestigious annual event comprising weekly tournaments with big prize purses and professional golfer who have every right to be household names. With an increase in television coverage for the LPGA tournaments and similar events, the profile of women’s golf would be raised significantly, and distinctions between the genders reduced. This would have a knock-on effect in golfing communities, with women’s golf getting more airtime on country club televisions and in bars, normalising and legitimising the place of women’s grassroots talent on courses across the country.
Inclusivity and Sportsmanship
The barriers to entry into golf are many, but some can manifest in ways other than institutional. Private and personal attitudes to women in golf also need to change, into a more open and inclusive sports environment. Beginners at golf might find it difficult to choose the best driver for them, and advice from fellow, more experienced golfers can be key for many to make that first step into purchasing gear. But for women who may feel alienated by the makeup of contemporary golf organisations, without accessible knowledge and mentorship that information may continue to elude them. Old-fashioned attitudes to women may also pervade private games, making for unsportsmanlike behaviour and a new fan of golf less likely to stick with the sport.